What’s the Difference Between Rigid PVC and Flexible PVC? - Return Polymers

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What’s the Difference Between Rigid PVC and Flexible PVC?

September 07, 2023

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of PVC? Perhaps you picture long white pipes, vinyl siding, or pool hoses. PVC is a versatile material that can be found in all kinds of products on the market today, including rigid forms and flexible forms. Besides the name, these two types of PVC have some distinct differences that are important to keep in mind.

There are benefits to both rigid PVC and flexible PVC pipe, depending on your application. The two materials can be used together in many cases to meet the needs of a job, depending on the different requirements, and weighing the pros and cons of each — especially when it comes to installation time and ease — can save you money and stress.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between these two materials:

Rigid PVC Benefits

  • Durable: Rigid PVC doesn’t rust, corrode, or degrade, and it can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, including exposure to sunlight, chemicals, and moisture.
  • Long Lasting: PVC pipes can last for several decades when properly installed and maintained.
  • Chemical Resistant: PVC is highly resistant to many chemicals, acids, and alkalis, making it suitable for use in industrial and chemical processing applications.
  • Smooth Interior Surface: Rigid PVC’s smooth interior surface helps prevent the buildup of sediment in pipes and keeps fluids flowing smoothly and efficiently.
  • Low Maintenance: Because of the smooth interior mentioned above, PVC pipes are less prone to clogging. They also don’t require regular painting or coating.
  • Lightweight: Compared to metal pipes, PVC pipes are relatively lightweight, making them easier to handle and install.
  • Resistant to Biological Growth: PVC is naturally resistant to biological growth, such as algae and bacteria, which can be a concern in water distribution systems.
  • Wide Range of Sizes and Types: PVC pipes are available in a wide range of sizes and types to suit various applications, including pressure pipes, drainage pipes, sewer pipes, and electrical conduit.
  • Ease of Installation: PVC pipes don’t require any special tools or welding to connect and install.
  • Non-Toxic: PVC doesn’t leach harmful chemicals into the water or soil, making it suitable for potable water systems.
  • Environmental Benefits: And, as far as Return Polymers is concerned, one of rigid PVC’s greatest benefits is this: rigid PVC can be recycled. It has a lower carbon footprint compared to some other materials.

Flexible PVC Benefits

Flexible PVC (often called PVC tubing or PVC hose) offers a lot of the same benefits as rigid PVC listed above, including easy installation, corrosion resistance, and resistance to biological growth. Flexible PVC is also lightweight, non-toxic, and low maintenance, like its cousin, rigid PVC.

Here are a few standout benefits of flexible PVC that differ from rigid:

  • It’s flexible. Obviously. This is the main advantage of flexible PVC pipe. Its flexibility wins out in applications where rigid pipes may be challenging to install.
  • Shock Absorption: If your application includes vibrations and movement, flexible PVC tubing provides some degree of shock absorption.
  • Versatile: Flexible PVC pipes can be used for water distribution, irrigation, drainage, and other fluid transfer applications, and it functions well in both low-pressure and high-pressure environments.
  • UV and Abrasion Resistant: Some flexible PVC pipe is designed for greater durability in daylight and situations where wear-and-tear may occur.
  • Cost-Effective: Because of its easy installation and even lower maintenance, flexible PVC pipe is often more cost-effective than rigid PVC pipe.
  • Reduced Noise Transmission: Flexible PVC can help reduce noise transmission in plumbing systems compared to rigid pipes.

But Is Flexible PVC Recyclable?

Unfortunately, flexible PVC is not a material that Return Polymers is able to recycle. In spite of all of those perks above, that’s definitely one of its downfalls. 

Return Polymers Recycles Rigid PVC… and Other Materials

Find out what materials we collect and recycle in all of their varied forms, and download the list to print off and hang up in your shop.


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